Women More Likely to Face Comorbidities in Multiple Sclerosis


MS patients have higher rates of many comorbidities except for high cholesterol.

Men diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) often have higher blood pressure than women, in addition to higher levels of diabetes, epilepsy, depression, and anxiety, according to findings published in Neurology.

Researchers from the University of Manitoba in Winnepeg, Canada studied more than 16,800 MS cases in order to determine the prevalence of comorbidity in MS population at the time of their diagnoses.

The researchers matched the MS patients with age, sex and geographically matched controls and estimated the prevalence of hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, heart disease, chronic lung disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia at the patients’ MS diagnoses.

About 70% of the MS cases were of female patients, the researchers reported. The MS patients had higher rates of all of the comorbidities except for high cholesterol.

The researchers added that the rates were especially high for mental illnesses, of which the most common was depression. Hypertension was 16% higher in women with MS and 48% higher for men with MS, compared to the matched non MS counterparts. Men with MS had higher rates of diabetes, epilepsy, depression and anxiety than compared to women with MS, the researchers observed.

The researchers believe that their findings raise several questions, including whether there are shared risk factors for both MS and these comorbidities, the study authors added in a press release. The researchers explained that they believe they will eventually be able to find ways to diminish the risk of MS and the other diseases.

“These findings are interesting for several reasons,” study author Ruth Ann Marrie, MD, continued in the statement. “It raises the question of whether there are shared risk factors for both MS and these other diseases, and if so, whether we could eventually find ways to reduce the risk of both MS and the other diseases. Also, studies have shown that MS may progress faster for people who also have other chronic conditions, so it's important for people and their doctors to be aware of this and try to manage these conditions.”

In a corresponding editorial, William B. Grant, PhD, of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center in San Francisco wrote that the shared risk factors for MS and these comorbidities.

“Smoking, obesity, low vitamin D, and low omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to contribute to the severity of MS and, in various combinations, these other illnesses as well,” Grant wrote. “Doctors will want to stress to those with MS the importance of correcting these problems.”

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